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Are Your Bad Sleeping Habits Hurting Your Health?

Reading Time: 6 minutes 6 seconds


Date: 2021-08-02T00:00:00-04:00

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night (1). How do you do in this regard? Does your sleep schedule typically allow you to get this amount? If not, it may be hurting your health.

Connection Between Sleep Quality and Health

Some people view sleep as a luxury. It's something they get when they have the time. Yet, research has consistently shown that poor sleep can lead to poor health.

In 2017, the journal Sleep Medicine published a meta-analysis of 153 studies. In total, these studies included more than five million participants (2). Findings connected sleep debt with an increased risk of death. Being sleep deprived was also shown to increase one's risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

If sleep deprivation is bad for health, exceeding the Foundation's recommendations must be better, right? Not exactly.

In 2018, Sleep Medicine Reviews published a meta-analysis of 137 studies (3). Again, the total number of participants was over five million. Based on the findings, it was determined that too much sleep is just as harmful to health as not getting enough. It too increases one's risk of death as well as the risk of major disease.

Sleep Disorder vs Poor Sleep Habits

It should be noted that having a sleep disorder isn't necessarily the same as poor sleep due to one's habits.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that there are roughly 80 different sleep disorders (4). Among them are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. Sometimes a sleep disorder is genetic, such as with narcolepsy. It may also be caused by a certain medication or medical condition.

In cases such as these, developing healthy sleep habits may not fully resolve the issue. It may require a medication change, for example. That isn't to say that sleeping habits aren't playing a part because they may be. But it may require additional interventions beyond getting good sleep.

Examples of Bad Sleeping Habits

So, what are we talking about when we say bad sleep habits? Here are a few examples to consider:

  • Staying up late even though you know you have to get up early

  • Having an irregular bedtime (not going to sleep at the same time each night)

  • Eating late at night, which leads to heartburn, making it harder to sleep

  • Drinking a lot of caffeine, especially later in the day

  • Not winding down before bedtime, giving your brain the ability to relax

  • Taking a sleep aid regularly (your body can come to rely on sleep medicine, making it harder to fall asleep on its own)

Effects of Poor Sleep Hygiene

Not only is poor sleep bad for your health, but it can affect you in other ways as well. If your sleep wake cycle is disrupted regularly, you may notice excessive daytime sleepiness. It then becomes harder to function at home and work. Sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of drifting off behind the wheel.

If you aren't getting restful sleep, it can impact all areas of your life. When you're tired, you aren't as good at problem-solving or analytical thinking. This can impact your work output. It also impacts your home life. You might notice that you have less patience with your spouse, children, and friends.

Poor sleep quality can also keep you from reaching your fitness goals. If your sleep schedule is lacking or you have inadequate sleep hygiene, you may not feel like going to the gym. You simply won't have the energy. Lack of sleep can also hinder muscle growth and performance. This makes developing good sleep habits critical to fitness success.

How to Develop a Healthier Sleep Pattern

The first step to creating positive sleep habits involves looking at your current patterns. What does your sleep schedule look like? Do you even have a consistent sleep schedule?

Sleep is controlled by the body's circadian rhythm. This is the internal clock that tells us when it's bedtime and when it's time to wake up. If your clock looks different every day, this can keep you from getting healthy sleep. Over time, it can even lead to a sleep disturbance.

Sit down with your calendar for next week. Can you come up with a sleep schedule that you are able to follow most nights? Maybe you're typically done with your day by 9 pm. Setting a 10 pm bedtime would be a good goal. This gives you an hour to engage in a relaxing bedtime routine.

Having a routine at bedtime helps better prepare your body and mind for sleep. It tells them both that it's time to calm down and get ready for rest. Incorporate activities that you find soothing. This could include taking a warm bath, listening to classical music, or practicing meditation.

Additional Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

What else can you do if sleep deprivation seems to be your norm? Here are a few additional sleep habits that can help:

  • Do your workouts in the morning. Some people can exercise, go home, and go straight to bed. Others find that late-day workouts make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you suspect that your exercise routine is impacting your ability to sleep, try switching it around. It may make a difference.

  • Keep a sleep diary. This will help you see any patterns you have that may affect your sleep hygiene. You may notice that you have trouble falling asleep on certain nights, for instance. Maybe those are the days that you exercise after work versus before. Or those are the nights you've had a disagreement with your spouse. A sleep diary helps uncover the cause of your sleep issues.

  • Cut off caffeine after noon. Caffeine has been associated with improved athletic performance, but some people are more sensitive to it than others. Cut back your intake and see if it impacts your sleep. If it's keeping you up at night, you might have to find other ways to boost your performance. (One option is to engage in active recovery.)

  • Stay away from alcohol. While it may be tempting to add a drink or two to your bedtime routine, this could actually have the opposite effect. The National Sleep Foundation warns that alcohol can reduce sleep quality as several studies have linked it to insomnia symptoms (5). It can also worsen some disorders, such as sleep apnea.

  • Take naps. If you have a hard time getting sufficient sleep at night, lie down and take a nap during the day if you can. Short naps can help recharge your energy. So, give yourself permission to drift off for 20 to 30 minutes in the afternoon. Just don't sleep any longer or you may find it difficult to get to sleep that night.

  • Work with a health coach. Health coaches help clients build healthy habits. They'll also help hold you accountable. From choosing better foods to building better sleep habits, they'll help you create a healthier lifestyle overall.

When to See a Doctor for Your Sleep Problem

If your daytime sleepiness is reducing your quality of life, it may be time to see a doctor. You also want to see a doctor if you suspect that you have chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, or some other type of sleep disturbance.

A sleep expert can help uncover the reason you can't get a good night's rest. Your sleep hygiene may be to blame, but there may also be some other cause. Identifying that cause is the first step to improving your sleep quality, and the quality of your life.

Our sleep can also be affected by our genes. Our genetic blueprint can influence our sleep duration, for instance. The ISSA's DNA-Based Fitness Coach Certification program teaches you how to help clients get better sleep based on their genotype. It also provides even more tips for developing good sleep hygiene.


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